New suicide prevention training expands awareness

From left: Adriana Trespalacios, chair of the annual Out of Darkness Walk at FIU; alumna Mikhaila Berkman; FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg; Alejandra Ares.

The annual Out of Darkness Walk at FIU is entering its third year, benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). As it continues to bring suicide awareness to the campus community, a new partnership this year will also further education by and for students.

Adriana Trespalacios, chairperson for the walk and administrative services manager for Facilities Management, proudly shared that in the past three years, the walk has raised more than $34,000 to support ASFP. Trespalacios had her own experience with suicide through the loss of her father in 2013 and knows that students sometimes relate better to other students. As a result, Trespalacios has brought together FIU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and AFSP to offer suicide prevention training for peer educators.

“You never know when you’re going to be confronted with someone in crisis,” said Trespalacios. “Being able to say the right words can really change the entire outlook. The training focuses on safe talk and identifying people in your life who have red flags.”

From left to right: FIU senior Alejandra Ares; her sister Adriana Trespalacios, chair of the walk; and their cousin and fellow FIU senior Marissa Jimenez.

Throughout the year, CAPS hosts events, workshops and more than 60 presentations in which peer educators are in involved. Wendy Ordonez, coordinator of outreach and educational media for CAPS, explained that peer educators drive student-to-student interaction, creating suicide awareness on-campus. In addition, peer educators teach their fellow students about depression and consent, among other topics.

“We host a yearly event where we teach students on how to respond if they think a friend or relative may be struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression,” said Ordonez. “This past January, 360 students attended.”

According to Kathryn Kominars, a licensed psychologist and associate director of CAPS, numerous data sources corroborate that the suicide rate has increased significantly in the past few years.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students,” Kominars said. “Statistics show there are 1,100 suicides on college campuses per year.”

Kominars said that the only way to stop suicide is to talk about it and seek help.

“Asking about suicide or self-harm doesn’t give someone an idea to commit suicide,” Kominars said. “Recommend that the friend sees a professional and make sure the friend follows through – for example, go with them to the appointment. If you are worried that your friend may be in danger of hurting themselves directly or indirectly, call 911.”

CAPS provides a variety of services for suicide prevention throughout the year including free and confidential counseling on both campuses with professional psychologists, social workers or mental health counselors. For more information, visit their website or call 305-348-2277.

The Out of the Darkness Campus Walk will take place on Saturday, Mar. 25 on the Graham Center lawns. Click here to register for the walk.

How to help a friend who may be at risk for suicide:

  1. Listen, provide support.
  2. Do not invalidate the reasons for which they are feeling suicidal.
  3. Remove firearms or other means of self-harm (pills or weapons).
  4. If drunk, help him or her regain sobriety as quickly as possible. Alcohol and drugs reduce our survival instinct.
  5. Ask them to commit to get help.
  6. Bring the person to CAPS, to a trusted professor, administrator, or resident life member who can connect them to on-campus services.
  7. If you don’t feel confident about helping them out, call 911, campus security, or a suicide hotline for advice.

Suicide Prevention Resources

  • CAPS (MMC): 305-348-2277
  • CAPS (BBC): 305-919-5305
  • University Police (MMC): 305-348-5911
  • University Police (BBC): 305-919-5911
  • Switchboard of Miami: 305-358-HELP (4357)
  • Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention, Inc.: (954) 384-0344 or (954) 383-1384
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

In an emergency, always call 911 immediately.